Today Pastor Choi talks about how the Bible treats women. Quoting Edith Hamilton who said the Bible is the only book up to the 20th century that treats women as equal as men, Pastor Choi points out how Jesus treated women in the Bible. He urges all God’s people to follow Jesus’ examples.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Women in the Bible John 8:1-11
John 8 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
The Adulterous Woman
8 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.2 Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” 6 They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. 7 But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. 10 Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”
Happy Mother’s Day!
Today’s sermon is dedicated to the mothers of our congregation for all the things they have done for their children over the years. Abraham Lincoln said it right: “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother” (brainyquote.com). Their love, prayers, and tender care are forever appreciated. Originally, I was going to speak about mothers in the Bible. Then, I decided to extend my attention to the women in the Bible instead. So, this morning you’re going to hear a sermon on the women in the Bible. More specifically, how the Bible treats women.
Question: is the Bible a good influence or a bad one when it comes down to women’s status in our society? Some believe that the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, is a bad influence. For instance, in Texts of Terror, Professor Phyllis Trible depicts the women in the Old Testament as victims. Quoting the stories of four women in the Hebrew Scripture (Hagar, Tamar, the daughter of Jephthah, and unnamed concubine), she sees God as the one who smites, strikes, and imposes suffering on women (I disagree that it was God who made women suffer. It was people who did that). In the past 50 years in America, the Church and its century old practice of male dominance and male preference were rightfully criticized by the feminists who fiercely promoted women’s equality with men. It improved people’s attitude towards women. More people began to treat women as equal to men, thanks to the education.
Let me refine my question a little bit: “Is the Bible itself a bad influence against women or is it the people responsible for that abuse?” I believe it is the people who misuse and abuse God’s Word to justify their deeds. I don’t see God or His Word at fault, because God always treats men and women equally. He doesn’t show favoritism. He is the fairest of all. It is the society, the culture, and the people in it that historically favored men over women for centuries; both in the West and in the East.
E.g. 1. Korean culture under the Confucian teachings (during Joseon Dynasty: 1392-1897 A.D.) was very unfair to women—one example, a widow should remain forever a widow, while a widower could remarry.
E.g. 2. My mom, the second eldest of five children in her family, always wished to have been a boy. Simply because, as a girl, she was not educated beyond the 2nd grade while all her three brothers went into a higher education.
Today a bias and practice against women still continue in some parts of the world. For instance, some cultures practice honor killings (“Honor killings are acts of vengeance, usually death, committed by male family members against female family members, who are held to have brought dishonor upon the family—wikipedia ‘honor killings’). Another instance, in China there is a serious shortage of women today due to the years of son-preference birth practice among the parents. Now, some worry that such a disparity between genders will cause a problem: less women for men to marry may lead to a war.
Here’s another view on women in the Bible. Edith Hamilton (a German-American educator and author who was “recognized as the greatest woman Classicist”—wikipedia) once said, “The Bible is the only book in the world up to our century which looks at women as human beings, no better or no worse than men.” Her view resonates with mine and with the Bible. Let me explain what the Bible says about women.
In the beginning, God created woman as a helper for man. Not just a helper but a divine helper—that is uniquely designed and provided by God alone. The partner God has created and appointed exclusively for man: The Lord God said, “It is not good (literally, evil) for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). The meaning behind “ezer (helper suitable)” is this: man is stuck in a pit and cannot get out by himself. Woman comes to his rescue and throws him a rope to pull him out.
Man needs woman and woman needs man. They complement each other. Without the other, neither side is complete. They are partners for life. Equal partners. Furthermore, without women, humanity will be in a big trouble, because there will be no procreation and no future for humanity.
Do you know how many women are listed in the Bible? Hundreds of them. First, there are 188 women whose names are recorded in the Bible, from Abigail to Zipporah. See how many you can recognize: Eve, Sarah, Hagar, Rebekah, Leah, Rachel, Tamar, Zipporah, Miriam, Rahab, Deborah, Hannah, Ruth, Bathsheba, Esther, Jezebel, Mary of Nazareth, Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist), Anna (prophetess) who prayed in the Temple day and night waiting for the coming of Messiah, Mary and Martha of Bethany, Mary Magdalene, Dorca, Lydia, Priscilla, and many more.
Next, there are other women who remain unnamed in the Scriptures: the wife of Noah, the wife of Lot, the wife of Potiphar, the wife of Job, the daughter of Jephthah, the unnamed concubine (who was senselessly murdered by thugs), the mothers who lost their babies to Herod’s sword while Jesus’ family escaped to Egypt, the Samaritan woman, the Syrophoenician woman, the woman whose hemorrhage problem was healed by Jesus, the woman who was caught in the middle of adultery and brought before Jesus, the women who cried for Jesus on His way to Calvary, and so on.
They were queens, prophetesses, leaders, slaves, prostitutes, wives, widows, sisters, daughters, daughters-in-law, mothers, and mothers-in-law. Oppressors and victims. Young and old. Good ones and bad ones. Except a few bad ones such as Jezebel—the evil queen who worshiped Baal and persecuted/killed God’s prophets, most of them encountered God and were touched by God’s grace. Working together with God, they left their footprints in the history of God’s people and their salvation journey.
Women’s status makes a huge progress in the New Testament. All thanks to Jesus! He brings a lot of good things about women. For instance, Gospel stories show a high number of references on women. Historically, the way Jesus treated women has laid the foundation for the western culture to treat women as equal to men. Jesus became our role model when it comes down to how we think of and treat women. Even today His story still gives us a fresh perspective on women.
I am going to briefly point out three ways how Jesus treated all the women who had encountered Him.
- He treated them equally as He did with men. He treated each woman with respect. He liberated and affirmed them. He never disgraced, belittled, reproached, or stereo-typed women. E.g. No sign of degrading the woman in John 8. The Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.
- He acknowledged their worth and value as co-heirs of God’s Kingdom and co-workers for God’s Kingdom. Women were always an integral part of Jesus’ ministry. He worked together with them (they ministered to the physical needs of Jesus and His disciples). For the next two thousand years, the gifts women brought to the Church have been the true blessings to the Church.
- Jesus looked at woman as a soul housed in a female body. Never as an individual who is inferior to man (a soul housed in a male body). We ought to practice as Jesus did, that is, to look at individuals, male or female, as precious souls in God’s sight.
Thanks to all women for their divine partnership with men. Thanks for all the contributions they have made in our human history. Let us follow Jesus’ examples. Let us continue working for God’s Kingdom treating each other with respect and equality.